“Uhh...it’s just that...” My paws shifted and I chewed my lip. I really didn’t know the second thing about hunting.
I was saved by a distraction as a small bunch of pokémon hustled into view. “We’re about to leave,” the altaria spoke, her tone informative rather than requesting. She stood proudly with a small, moss-coloured pokémon on her left. He was canine-like and had yellow streaks along his elongated head and a spike-like tail poking up from his behind. An electrike.
“Oh?” Ikari met her eyes. “Wonderful!”
“And us,” began another voice, and Hyso hopped up, the floatzel I glimpsed earlier following with a confident grin. “We were going to head west to the wide-river and hunt some fish.”
“Most certainly!” the orange pokémon agreed, and I felt like a sarcastic swing of the arm (or leg).
The slowki—queen set her gaze upon me, and I suddenly felt like the entire colony was watching. “Which party would you like to travel with?”
I glanced between the two groups. ‘Hmm...let’s see...’
Tarla silently dared me to follow with her menacing eye, and the small electrike, although cute, avoided my line of sight. ‘The snooty altaria overflowing with self-confidence and a shy electric type, or the seemingly friendly water type going fishing with a placid looking raticate partner...’
The choice was an easy one, and the answer tickled my claws as I began to reply. “I pick—”
My question was interrupted as a patter of feet scattered across the ground and three figures materialised before us. One, tall and broad, looked down upon me with alarmed eyes which quickly returned to wary; another, a short pokémon, looked slightly emotionless but at the same time happy. The latter grew a smile.
“Zhol!” I exclaimed, nearly leaping onto her with excitement. I felt my tail sway and my body strengthen. It hadn’t been long, but it was weird to go for a measurable time without her.
“Hi, Dusty!” she replied mildly enthusiastically, revealing the third pokémon—a bite-sized pink pokémon with blue polka-dots – or, as I liked to call them, poké-dots – spread out over his skin. A scrunched face appeared disappointed as the snubbull addressed everyone with a flash of his eyes and shyly hobbled down the centre of the path and between us all, in the direction of the waterhole.
“Who’s the cutie?” I asked the sneasel amusedly, finding the young pokémon ugly and adorable at the same time.
“He’s a granbull’s son—Hunter.” She drew the slowqueen’s attention and mentioned, as the scyther pushed by, “He was injured, so we returned to get his wounds treated.”
Ikari nodded, and with her eyes she followed Shardclaw walking beside the normal type, guiding him closer to the clinic. “It was good you thought to do so.” She passed Zhol a supportive smile.
“Oh—Ikari?” I began, stepping forward. By the looks of things, she wasn’t aware I knew her name. “Can I go with Zhol? She’s a great teacher! I—I mean...of the surroundings. Teaching me about the trees and...plants, and...general landscape.” I cleared my throat uncomfortably, my speech beginning to quicken. “You know.”
Zhol tilted her head as Ikari thought my request over. “...That would be fine,” she answered, and I cheered, pouncing onto my dark and ice type friend and knocking her to the ground. She nearly speared me with her claws as an automatic reaction, but instead held back her giggles and disapproval, shoving me to one side.
“If you all don’t mind, could you and Shardclaw take Dusty to the east, so Tarla and Doltei can search the area you were hunting in?” Ikari wondered, and I found it interesting that she asked for clearance before making the orders.
Zhol seemed indifferent. “I don’t mind.”
With a shrug, Hyso and the floatzel scurried down towards where Zhol was taking me earlier, through the west exit, and Tarla huffed, turning to the electrike. She muttered something and took wing, grasping him in her talons and soaring in the opposite direction to the huts—where Zhol and Shardclaw had come.
“So... We will
be going with Shardclaw, then?” I questioned with a string of displeasure dangling from my tone.
“...Yes,” the sneasel confirmed, and I groaned inwardly. I so
didn’t want to travel with him.
Why did Azure lie about her whereabouts? “It must have been another glaceon that you met.”
I’m not an idiot. ...Well...maybe I sometimes am, but Raiys introduced
her to me as Azure. I know
it was her. The question now was, as I had been wondering, why didn’t she tell anyone she was pokénapped? Was she ashamed or embarrassed about it? Did she tell someone who wasn’t Mynk? It didn’t make much sense. Or, as an old friend and I used to say, it made anti-sense.
A twig slipped between two of my toes and stabbed my skin. “OUCH!” I yelped with a scowl, angry that it would so rudely interrupt my thinking. I spat a flame onto it, and a thin trail of smoke lifted, snaking sneakily into the sky. I noticed that Shard’s eyes grew as large as Cubbs’ thick skull and he snapped at me to extinguish it. With a mutter of annoyance I stamped it out, and Zhol threw me a particular look. It was a look of expectance: I should get used to being bossed around by this overgrown bug type. “Heh, we’ll see...” The trees ushered us further into the forest as the path became rockier, and soon we were leaping up small hills and eddying around the occasional boulder. As I remembered the question regarding Azure, I turned to my sneasel friend. “Hey,” I started, and she met my gaze. “Why didn’t you tell me Azure was a colony member?”
The sneasel seemed to ponder as she looked skyward before back to me. “You didn’t ask me.”
“Yeah, but I mentioned her before we got here... And it was like you didn’t know who she was at all.”
“Azure has...not been staying with us long. We are unacquainted,” she mused, and I could see her digging through her thoughts.
“Right...” I jumped a rock my size (and nearly snagged a foot on its point). “Do you know where she came from?”
The sneasel shook her head, and I frowned, facing forward once more. As I glanced over my shoulder, the scyther acted as if he hadn’t been staring at – or ‘checking on’ – me while I’d been talking to Zhol, and that only made my frown marks deepen. He was beginning to get on my nerves, and pretending wasn’t going to stop me from wanting to tackle him down and interrogate him.
My attention was shifted as a slope appeared to the left, obscuring the sharp and tricky stalagmites which had been spiking that path near when we began, and it rose fast before it was soon a looming wall of rock. A path wound up it further on, and on its level was what looked like more grass. The grass where we were was thinning out, and mainly in clumps. The trees were changing to become harsher and ahead in the far distance I could glimpse a barren land stretching further with each ledge and giant stone.
Zhol made a subtle edge towards the slope which tore through the wall, and soon enough we were elevating and onto grass once more, turning to the left. The path now stretched to the north, rather than the east, and it felt odd, since right next door was a desert-like land. However, I went with the flow, and the literal sound of flowing trickled into my ears, drowning my hearing in a rushing current not far off. “You guys gonna fish?” I asked, but really I should have directed the question to Zhol and Zhol only. It’s not like the scyther would reply.
“Oktau and Hyso are responsible for fish,” she told me, and I made an effort to thank her for her answer before padding on by the wall which continued in this direction.
Rustling hustled to my ears before I assumed a ready stance and locked my sights on a tree just begging me to hunt its inhabitants. A feathery tail poked through a break between the leaves, and my heart began leaping. “This is so mine,” I claimed, narrowing my eyes.
My friend hardly seemed interested in upstaging me. “...I’ll check if the river can be crossed easily,” she mentioned, and I nodded, trying to concentrate.
As the sneasel rushed off, I crouched with my tail end to the rock and I attempted to recall what I had seen her do when she hunted. Although...fishing was what I watched her to, and with that she merely used her hefty claws to take aim and then stab the suckers. Though I didn’t think that technique would be so effective in a situation like this, where the prey was in the air rather than being submerged. Taking my chances, I decided to stick with my instincts and wing it (here’s where one would groan at my humour)! I took off, having a better result than the last tree I tried to climb up, and the branch caught me with the many extra limbs growing from it in several places. I scrambled onto it and managed to balance after steadying myself, and then I readied myself once more and leapt onto an easier branch above. Once stable, I flashed a sly grin to Shard, who was watching with what...could have been worry.
I crouched, my belly fur brushing against the bark, and my shoulders reached for the sky as I crept along, meeting the trunk. I hoisted myself up to have two front paws against it and my hind legs were swarmed with weight. Saliva began flooding my mouth as I watched as, above, a number of spearow squawked at the sight of me and my hungry eyes.
Much to my surprise, I was jumped by one as he dove down and swooped, nearly slicing my eye. I shrieked and dipped my head, my tuft blowing back as the wind weaved between each strand. My paws nearly slipped as he wheeled around and tried again, but this time he skimmed my ear with a wing attack, and a soft throbbing began at its tip. As he repeated the action and neared me for a third time, I scarcely aimed before firing a stream of flamethrower, but the bird pokémon was unexpectedly agile and evaded the attack with a feather to spare. I screeched as he landed a successful gust attack, and I was blown hopelessly off balance, clawing at the bough for safety. Apparently the forest was mocking me as I failed to get a grip and tumbled onto the bough below and continued to the ground with a pain-induced wail.
In no time I felt a rush of wind and the flash of metal as I blinked out the pain and weakly turned my head. I couldn’t breathe as a result of being winded as I witnessed Shard race past me, take to the air and then flutter his way to the branch that threw me off. His claws dug into the bark and he raised his weapon-arms and must have been satisfied as the spearow screeched and reeled back, zooming to the nest he originated in.
I finally inhaled the much needed air surrounding me, and my chest heaved as I got to my paws and felt a large presence looming over me. I panted, twisting my head to see a scyther clenching his jaw. As much as I didn’t want to, I thanked him. It was horribly embarrassing to have nearly been beaten by a meagre spearow, but all the while, I was relieved it had been scared off before it did any more...damage...
Shard muttered a reply, but after he realised it was barely audible, he cleared his throat and repeated, “You’re...welcome,” and slipped away. He only went a few paces before stopping again, and I wearily followed.
I realised the reason he stopped and did the same thing, noticing as a duo of tasty-looking young buneary hopped along one of the rock wall’s levels. I gave a sinister smile as I decided I liked what I saw. Turns out we both had the same thoughts as Shard took off and lifted into the air before landing soundlessly onto the edge of the level the normal types had been previously on. I flinched with a tang of jealousy as I bounded towards a pile of boulders and jutting ledges that were my pathway to landing next to him (not that he waited).
Following their tail-ends, I sprinted after them while making sure to keep clear of the edge to my right which came before a long drop. It wasn’t long before I was overtaken, and within a matter of seconds, Shard was skimming effortlessly across the rock in hot pursuit. I darted after him, avoiding any splits in the floor or jutting rocks along the way.
We slowly rose, and the wall next to us grew further away, so that our level was becoming wider. We both had more space to run, and the buneary had less space to hide.
In no time Shard’s scythes came down upon one as the other flew out of the way at the last second, and unfortunately for the buneary, it was cut down its leg. It howled and rolled into a boulder before becoming unconscious, and Shard took it upon himself to bite into its neck to stop its pulse. I, meanwhile, sped past the scyther with the second and rather distressed normal type in view, felt my stomach fizzle, and spat out a glob of purple goop. It splattered short of the prey, and I was left to jump over it at the last second. I scoffed, thinking it to be typical, and tried again. This time I aimed further ahead, and it landed half a metre in front of the buneary. I frowned again, thinking it to be typical, but when it skidded, lost its footing and began somersaulting, I lightened up.
“Score,” I whispered, dancing ‘round the puddle and ripping the buneary from the ground. But when it shrieked and struggled rather than flopping dead, I drew a sharp breath and adjusted my grip, biting down harder. Finally I felt the prey droop, and I grimaced, imagining how painful it must have been when I failed to extinguish hi—its life. Every time I identified a prey pokémon’s gender, it became more personal, just like if I had known their name. That made it harder to kill the prey and become driven of all remorse. Master used to tell me something every time I had given her a forlorn look:
“The food chain works in a certain way. Without the food, there is no chain; and without the chain, there’s no order of things. So don’t feel bad.”
My head hung from my shoulders. I...I really missed her. It’s...hard without her.
“Come on,” muttered Shard through the fluff of his catch, and I obeyed after shaking the sorrow from my mind. I was rather surprised he had spoken to me, but who was to say he was comfortable?
“Yeah...” I mused, following with a body swaying back and forth from my jaws. Suddenly a tremor made me blink. ‘A tremor?’
At first I thought it was my belly, but when it visibly shook our surroundings, I had two things to believe: my stomach knew the move earthquake, or something else did!
Rocks from above tumbled from the high-placed ledge, and images of being trapped beneath one or having my skull forced in two invaded my mind. I snapped out of it and leapt, missing one by a single hair.
“Shard!” I yelped, the scyther frozen with fear. Around him a shower of stone chipped the ground and landed a fang short of his body. “SHARD!” I screamed, but the scyther’s only reaction was his jaw giving way and the dead buneary falling like slop onto the rock. I cracked down on the prey in my mouth and jolted forward, forcing myself to race through a deadly cascade of rocks. The adrenaline awoke inside of me, and my leg muscles were prompted to boost me forward in a desperate attempt to protect my very life.
Unfortunately the normal type which would satisfy my belly later on added to the weight I needed to carry, and it was constantly banging against my front. I clenched my teeth tighter as I forced myself to release it, but I didn’t need reminding about how bad that choice was. In a tangle my paws intertwined and there was less than a second to spare as my face slid along the harsh surface, stones and grit embedding themselves into my skin. I cried out with shock, a strong stinging firing up around my muzzle and forehead.
The sound of shattering rock pierced my ears as shards attacked from my right, some sharp enough to lodge into my flesh and cause a considerable amount of pain. “Ahh!” I screeched, curling up and praying from the depths of my heart for Arceus to spare my soul allow me my life. As soon as it could my head flipped up, and my eyes fell to Shard. Another boulder was crashing down from above him, and the fool was merely standing with wide eyes! I pondered things for a moment before ramming my paws against the rock. Had I not sprung from my position then and there and Shard would have been squashed scyther fodder! I slammed into him, narrowly avoiding a slit leg, and he was strewn across the path in a clumsy daze. I tensed my muscles and braced myself, preparing for a sickening crunch and a lost leg, but to my eternal relief, the sound was one of rock on rock. “You owe me,” I remarked, but my mood was quickly knocked from me as I felt my wet face ring with pain once more, and I longed for it to stop.
Although I knew my limbs had survived, I was unable to jump away as a fierce tugging clawed at my rump. I was in a wicked panic as I whipped around and absorbed the sight of my trapped tail. I squealed with desperation, swiping at the ground as if it would lift the rock and make it roll off the edge, but to my horror the reality of the situation dawned on me.
I was stuck.
“Shard!” I yelped again, repeating his full name shortly after. This was insane! Why was he leaning on his back, propping himself with his scythes and merely staring wide-eyed at me?! He needed to intervene and help me already! “Come on
!” I pleaded, my eyes frantic in their search for more descending death spheres that were anywhere near. I caught sight of another, and it rocked on the above edge before tilting and dropping with a thick whistling sound. It was headed straight for me, and my eyes forced tears within them as I bore holes into Shardclaw’s skull! “Help me
I heard the misleading shatter of the boulder, and I felt it bash into my spine, causing a shrill shriek to escape my maw. However, it took me longer than a moment to recognise that it wasn’t a full-sized rock that had struck me. In fact, it was a mere fragment, and the contact it made with me was more of a shock than painful. Confused at this, I flung my head skywards in time to witness a dark figure soar before landing, its back to me and its powerful claws hanging just short of the ground. This ‘it’ was certainly not genderless.
“Z...ZHOL!” I cried, gushing fluids of relief and happiness mingled with those caused by fear and doubt. “You saved my life!” She whirled around and barely skimmed my face before zipping to my side and hesitated before slicing through the boulder and releasing my tail. I was overwhelmed and strongly grateful, and I wanted to find Zhol all the prey in the world to drop at her feet and watch her indulge in.
“Keep moving,” she urged, and I flicked my head upward. My heart stabbed my chest as I saw more rocks targeting us and began plunging in our directions.
With a scream I attempted to dart away, but my right leg almost betrayed me as I remembered the shards in my side. I had no time to yank them out as a rock smashed in front of me, and my best attempt to shield my face was to halt and shove it down, and a spray of pieces pattered my ears. One portion struck my eye, although it was closed, and I scrunched up my face as thumping began pulsing through my head. With no other priority, I blindly raced on, temporarily forgetting anyone but myself, and finally I saw the end of the path—where it began dividing into ledges. “Yes,” I breathed, nearly doubting my heavenly vision. My paws carried me faster, if possible, and my want for time to speed up was overwhelming. The repeated action of legs pushing my body placed me only metres from escape and my eyes lit up. I felt free, and somehow so much lighter; it was easier to run!
Continued in next post...